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I’ve long said that my favorite authentic island experience to date has been the small island of Lanai, which some may be surprised is actually a Hawaiian island, just off the coast of Maui. With no stoplights, only a couple franchises, and many more miles of unpaved roads than paved roads, Lanai was a welcome experience for this off-the-beaten-path traveler. However, it now moves into my favorite authentic island experience in America, as its rank worldwide has now been supplanted by most recent island experience, Cayman Brac, one of the sister islands of Grand Cayman.
Though familiar with the Caribbean, I didn’t even know that Cayman Brac was a destination until I was invited to be hosted by the Cayman Islands. And that term, “destination,” may be subjective being there’s only one hotel on the entire island, which can be driven from one end to the other in 30 minutes. There are no stoplights, no franchises, no high-rises, and no nightlife. But it’s for these reasons that it is a destination. Most of the island is undeveloped since a bluff covers a majority of it. Local food menus change daily based on local seafood availability. And yet the waters around it are considered some of the best diving waters in the world according to the Cousteau family (and many others). But while you can read more about its food, history, and culture in my article for Travel Mindset, below I feature some of my favorite photos from my recent trip to Cayman Brac.
There are no hidden meanings here. As I discovered last month on my trip to Cayman Islands, Stingray City is literally a city of stingrays along a series of sandbars just off the coast of Grand Cayman. As the story goes, decades ago, fishing boats would stop in the shallow waters to clean the fish they had caught for the day. What was the inedible, disposable parts for fishers, was dinner for the abundance of stingrays that would gather here. Over the years they’ve continued to congregate, even while it’s become the most popular thing to do on Grand Cayman.
I did quite a bit of research, even more than normal, about Stingray City before my excursion to find out about the integrity and general consensus about the attraction, being the most popular thing to do on Grand Cayman. And I was pleased with what I found both in my research and on the trip itself. It is a popular destination, but the stingrays come and go as they please. Nonetheless, I’m glad I went when I did, mid-week when there weren’t any docked cruise ships, as there were just 10-15 of us. But rather then bore you with any more details, I’ll just show you in photos. I believe the photos speak for themselves!
I originally drove past the Caribbean-looking restaurant, Star Island, after seeing that the parking lot was empty at lunchtime. Yet the thought of conch fritters in my mouth beckoned me to turn around; and so I did. I reached for the doorknob, turning it to find a woman sitting on a stool by the register, counting money. “Are y’all open for lunch?,” I asked. To which she shook her head and responded, “Sure, have a seat and I’ll be right with you.”
As I sat down, a feeling of nostalgia swept over me. Artificial flowers and nice glassware with napkins delicately placed inside them donned each table covered with a kitschy table cloth. Paintings of Caribbean-style homes lined the walls and hanging down from one wall in the corner, a small flat-screen television connected to a laptop that was playing Harrison Ford’s 1986 movie, The Mosquito Coast. It would serve as a prelude to the day’s scenery on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac (one of the smaller Cayman islands southwest of Cuba) that would feel all too Indiana Jones-esque. I reached for my phone, wondering if there was Wi-Fi, but instead nibbled on conch fritters, observed the paintings lining the interior, and studied the island’s map (to the sound of Harrison Ford and River Phoenix) as I tried to transition from a Los Angeles state of mind to a Cayman Island state of mind.